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Boycott (?)

The Archdiocse of New Orleans has called upon Catholics to refuse to patronize (boycott?) contractors involved in building a new Planned Parenthood facility. 

There were rumors that the NFL might refuse to patronize (boycott?) the state of Arizona for the Superbowl, if the governor signed a law that expanded rights of business owners to refuse to patronize (boycott?) customers if doing so violated their religious beliefs. 

A gay hairdresser refused to cut the hair of the governor of New Mexico (boycott?)  because he didn't agree with her stance on same-sex marriage.( HT Deacon's Bench)

What, exactly, is a boycott? Does refusing service in a particular case, for whatever reason, count as a little boycott? Or do you need to try to organize? How do we analyze the morality of boycotts? Is that analysis entirely reducible ot the morality of the underlying cause?

Can we distinguish between boycotting something and impermissible cooperation with evil? It may not be impermissible cooperation with evil to shop at a big box store, but I may choose to boycott it anyway, in order to change (say) child labor practices of its suppliers.

Any thoughts on how we should think about boycotts? They are not just a liberal, or a conservative tactic. They can be used by both sides in any controversy. Though: 1) in order to be necessary, you'd need to be trying to change the majority culture in some way; and 2) in order to effective, you'd need to have a substantial minority on your side. 

What do you think?


About the Author

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.



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 Why was the bus boycott in support of Rosa Parks in Montgomery, AL justified? Because the Jim Crow law about who could sit where in a bus was immoral.  The bus riders were not morally obligated to cooperate with the bus company.

But if the reason they were not obligated was that the law was intrinsically immoral, then it would seem that they were *obligated* not-to-ride-those-buses.  And if they were obligated not to ride, then  all the people in all the other cities with that Jim Crow law would also seem to be oobligated not-to-ride-their-buses.

So many variables. 

A boycott is a relatively blunt instrument, and the possibility is there to cause collateral damage.  At least some of the construction contractors for that Planned Parenthood facility probably are small businesses, and my observation of construction jobs is that employment is not always permanent or secure for construction workers.  It would be a shame if low-paid laborers ended up losing their jobs because of the Archdiocese's boycott.  I am not sure that a diocese calling for a boycott is a good idea.  I'd rather see the bishops teach and propose, and let the laity organize the boycotts.  The diocese could target communication to the construction workers and urge them to consider working for companies that don't cooperate in building abortion facilities.  No doubt, the facility would get built anyway - but I suspect it will despite the diocesan-led boycott, too.  Just my view.

Refusing to partronize [boycott] is morally legitimate.However, a business open to the public that refuses customers based on a group identiy or a  belief, is morally illigitimate and justifiably  illigal.[As oppossed to not letting someone in  store cause they're not wearing shoes,say][IMO.]I have no problem with the archdiocese telling people to not patronize businesses contracted out to planned parenthood. It's the church's  opinion and the church as any group or indvidual has the right to try to change a culture through imposing negative consequences for having certain beliefs  or practices.That's political action.And politiical action can have a good end or an evil's certainly a right and expression of freedom to engage in political action.If I owned a business I would not deny goods or sevices to anyone -no matter what I knew about them including if I new them to hold the most egregious positions on anything.Open to the public,means just that. To exclude anyone would be to undermine the principla of equality, and freedom of belief, of association ,of speech, which are essential to a civil  society.It is good that there are non discrimination laws on the books.To boycott a business ,though it may force the business to fail, does not undermine equality or freedom but is a tactic used to change beliefs and or  practices which one sees as evil. Having a successful business is not an imperative and does not equate with freedom or equality.It does not mean that there are not boycotts that I find to be unethical .It depends what the reasons for the boycott are.

Boycott is an extreme tool of economic violence.  It should be used sparingly when democratic persuasion and processes don't work as in the southern bus boycott.  I would like to boycott the whole economic system because it relies on human exploitation and environmental ruin.   I actually hate buying things at all.  The increasing power, consolidation and monopoly for the benefit of large enterprises may allow for only the extreme measures of boycott.

The continued Planned Parenthood fixation by certain US bishops needs to stop.  It is based upon poor research; wrong facts; biases; and a continued misogynism in typical paternilistic authoritarian style.

Help me understand what Aymond is trying to do here:

- first, does he clearly articulate why Planned Parenthood violates archdiocesan beliefs?

- second, where in this threatened boycott does he indicate that Planned Parenthood is *evil*?

- third, given the words and statements of the current pope over the last 9 months, how is Aymond's boycott echoing what Francis has said and is saying?

- fourth, is this really the best way to object to a very small percentage of what Planned Parenthood does?  (if or can you say that Planned Parenthood causes thousands of abortions?  and is this true in the NO archdiocese? or is this just the usual meme and continuing assumptions by certain US bishops?)

- fifth, especially in New Orleans and Orleans, St. Benard, and Picayune Parishes which have extremely high rates of poverty; unemployment; continued racial bigotry; high rates of single parenthood; etc.  Doesn't Planned Parenthood provide support, education, resources, etc. that uphold the dignity of women esp. young black women?  What is the archdiocese proposing to replace what Planned Parenthood is doing/offering or is this just your typical negative pronouncement and anathema?

- sixth, what has Aymond done to address the significantly high rates of uninsured in the state of Louisiana; has he spoken out against the governor, Jindal's, refusal to expand Medicaid to the poor?  (why doesn't Aymond boycott that decision?)

- what does the archdioces do now in terms of outreach; how much financial and family support does it offer?  how about medical services for women in these three parishes?  (and wonder what the Daughters of Charity at Charity Hospital feel about this boycott?  How about other religious orders in NO who struggle to not only encourage catholics to support the unemployed, the poor, the uneducated - do they agree with this move by Aymond?

This smacks of what Texas legislature did 6 months ago - yep, they closed down 25 centers but created significant impact to wellness, health, medical care in distant, rural communities and only exacerbated the plight of the poor, the barely employed at minimum wage, the more than 40% uninsured in the state of Texas, etc.

One simple follow up thought - is this really a pro-life declaration or, rather, is it not really just anti-abortion? 

Is this really acting like the Good Samaritan or more like the judgmental Pharisees?

Boycotts arise out of long struggle and object to violence and denial of human dignity, rights, etc.  Yes, abortion in one way is violence and denies the rights of the unborn...but, it is so much more complex than that.  This boycott appears simplistic in response to a perceived threat (not sure I buy the archdiocese's math - they project but is that accurate).  Louisiana already leads the nation in terms of poor and inadequate healthcare to its minority and poor citizens.  How does this boycott address that situation?  Appears like Aymond is attacking a *symptom* rather than the systemic change and hard work that is necessary and he is choosing to fight an organization (that, whether you agree or not, also provides significant healthcare resources and support) - why isn't he fighting other organizations e.g. governor's stance against Medicaid expansion; large number of uninsured; mininum wage difficulties, etc.

Call it "judgmental Pharisses" if you like. Planned Parenthood is engaged in the murder of the unborn and the church is  morally obliged [as  is  any human being ]to denounce and to put up hurdles against it, including the noble traditon of calling for boycotts.The dignity of women,poor minority women is not upheld by planned parenthood coming to town to provide abortions or dispensing harmful birth control pills to these young and ignorant and impoverished women.

Your reasoning is so confused and convoluted that you need to take a step back and rethink everything you have said in your comment.  As is, the thing is pure nonsense. I suggewst you try again, while thinking about the respective meanings of the terms "rights", "freedom", "discrimination", "moral, and "immoral."

You obviously put much effort into your statement--it just somehow went awry.


Bill, did you happen to read the news article to which Cathleen linked in her first link in the post?  The article describes the buiding being constructed as an "abortion facility".  Whatever good things(?) Planned Parenthood does in the community, presumably can be done without that facility.  

Echoing what Stanley Kopacz said- this is a secondary boycott, which is an especially blunt tool of economic violence.  My understanding is the NO Planned Parenthood will be an abortion clinic, not just a dispenser of contraceptives, so I'm OK with a boycott given the exceptionally grave cruelty of abortion. 

I do have this concern.  Many of the recent actions of the Catholic bishops have given me the impression that they hope to achieve things by the raw use of economic power that they have not been able to do by persuation- for example, in the areas of contraception and gay rights.  I really hope the bishops reserve this economically violent tool for the violence of abortion, and don't start organizing boycotts of drugstores that sell contraceptives or small businesses owned by gay couples. 


Okay, this is not meant to be a post on abortion. It's meant to try to figure out how to think about the activity of boycotting--which is done by lots of people for lots of reasons.



Well said, Ms. Caminer.

I was thinking about the criteria for "just (sic?) war" and wondering if such a model would work here...

lesseee... proper authority, proportionality, just means, reasonable hope of success -- not sure...

A secondary boycott, which is what N.O. is trying, is considered an unfair labor practice under the Taft-Hartley law. (It was passed over Truman's veto.) I have never heard of any organization except a union being hauled into court and enjoined to stop a secondary boycott, and I doubt I ever will. It is not conceivable to the haulers-into-court that a bishop would sink so low as to imitate a "union boss."

But there you are. If the bishop walks like a duck and squawks like a duck, he is engaging in an unfair labor practice under a Republican hot-button law.

I thought I made perfect sense but i'll try again.I was hurried.[ha ,ha.] I believe in boycotts  of business AND I concur with laws that barr businesses from discriminating against  people[based on ethincity,race, sexual preferences, religion etc;.protected classes].Why do I believe in boycotts but NOT in a business witholding his/her service to a person whose views or group identity the business owner  disdains?Because I believe that boycotts are a form of political action.Free people can and should try to effect political change concerning practices or beliefs they believe are wrong through actions and boycotts are such legitimate means to effect change.On the other hand a [public] business  is part of the public space and open to all .Hence barring anyone to partake of the goods or services  in that public space  is a violation of  anti discrimation laws .These laws RIGHTLY exist to promote equality for all people in  society. Discrimation is a way of underminding that principlal of equality and of equal treatment under the law.Inequality manifested as unequal treatment [not serving the customer] is inherently   unjust.Therefore it is wrong to promote or partake of.Civil society is eroded when the injustice of discrimination in business is  permitted.  Free people have a right to their beliefs, however egreious. They have the right to the goods and services of a business because they partake of the same freedom and are equal.A boycott  OF a business does not  inherently undermine freedom but discrimation BY a business  inherently  does.A boycott may undermine a successful business but a successful business is not a guaranteed  right.Freedom to use public goods and services is guaranteed as a right[ of free and equal people].Got it?

Cathleen Kaveny:  "Okay, this is not meant to be a post on abortion. It's meant to try to figure out how to think about the activity of boycotting--which is done by lots of people for lots of reasons."

Isn't it an OK answer to say that boycotts, and especially secondary boycotts, should only be used in very grave situations, not over every disagreement?   As a vegetarian I do not boycott supermarkets that sell meat, but I do boycott enterprises involving severe or unnecessary cruelty to animals.  I was applying that principle to the example that you gave. 

And though i support the principal of boycotts it does not follow[as  i said in my first post but it makes no sense,you said, so i'll say it again; hopefully in a more sensical way] that I support all or any boycott. It depends on  the reason for the boycott.[I support the one called for against contractors with planned parenthood, for sure]. I do oppose all instances of a business owner refusing to serve a customer[except for individual violations of a health or other code appropriate to that business].Questions of how great is the offense, weighed  on the scale with the economic damage to those individuals in the business and their employees [or of a whole coundtry;sanctions],needs to measured and calculated accordingly.It's not always clear and easy but planned parenthood  for me is an easy one.


Planned Parenthood has had a facility in New Orleans on Magaine Street for years.  It doesn't do abortions.

While the Archbishop is calling for businesses to boycott the building, he has not threatened any punishment such as refusing Communion for anyone who does participate.

The proposed facility will be able to do as many as 30 abortions a day.

As the veteran of several boycotts (usually involving local environmental issues), I know first-hand the truth of Prof. Kaveny’s maxim that “in order to be effective, you need to have a substantial minority on your side.” Sometimes, however, small victories (e.g., connecting with other like-minded individuals and building on those associations) are more than pyrrhic and can eventually lead to quantifiable results. Cesar Chavez and his National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers Union) began small, for example, but through dynamic and sustained efforts, including the use of boycotts, became a major force for the rights of agricultural workers.   

By the way, the word “boycott” has an interesting linguistic history:

The word ‘boycott’ entered the English language because of a dispute between a man named Boycott and the Irish Land League in 1880. Captain Charles Boycott was a landlord's agent, a man whose job was to collect rents from tenant farmers on an estate in northwest Ireland. At the time, landlords, many of whom were British, were exploiting Irish tenant farmers, and as part of a protest, the farmers on the estate where Boycott worked demanded a reduction in their rents. Boycott refused their demands, and evicted some tenants. The Irish Land League advocated that people in the area not attack Boycott, but rather use a new tactic: refuse to do business with him at all.

This new form of protest was effective, as Boycott wasn't able to get workers to harvest crops. And by the end of 1880 newspapers in Britain began using the word the way we know it today, not as a person's proper name, but as a tactic of protest.

I share the emotional response of the gay hairdresser toward the governor of New Mexico.  However, if, as a business, you are set up, establishing a judicial person or partnership or sole proprietorship, and rely on the secular state’s power, such as the enforcing of contracts, financial agreements, collection of debts, police power,  etc. there should be very little question as to where your private views stop and compliance with law begins. If one is to use the law to buttress one’s ability to do business, one cannot pick and choose which laws to obey or disregard.

If the hairdresser is licensed by the state and open to the general public, then he has no choice but to serve the Governor.  Besides, just think of the chance to "preach the gospel" to a captive client who should be in mortal fear of the condition of her 'do if she really annoys the hairdresser by arguing back?

JP and Prof. Kaveny - yes, I did read the link in the initial post.  JP - that link raised my questions...there is no documentation in that link; only assumptions or pronouncements from one, very biased source.

Do we know that this planned building will only be used for abortions?  Can't think of any Planned Parenthood building, clinic, etc. that only serves that purpose?  (keep in mind, there are no abortion clinics in the state of LA and so this is feared).  Yes, the link states upto 30 abortions per day - and we know this how?

Prof. Kaveny - sorry, did not make my points clearly or directly connected to your initial question about boycotts. list of points are all about the current situation and stats for people living in the three parishes - Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard in and around New Orleans.  A secondary boycott falls on folks who work for construction industries, trucking, materials, etc. and this places an additional burden upon folks who already struggle to keep jobs, etc.  So, it appears to be a boycott that falls disporportionally upon the very folks who could also benefit from Planned Parenthood services (in their traditional role as a location for medical and wellness care in minority neighborhoods).

You don't want this to be about abortion and yet, that is the total focus on Aymond's boycott and why I connected to Francis and his many statements about why we don't need to constantly mention or focus on abortion....rather, we need to address, listen to, and support the poor, the uneducated, the umemployeed.  How will this boycott accomplish that?  This doesn't appear to be a boycott (like Cesar Chavez) that addresses inequalities, discrimination, or attacks on human dignity - rather, it is a sledge hammer about abortion rather than a tool to use as part of systemic change.  So, your boycott stops PP from constructing the building, does that change any minds, behaviors, etc. or is it just a heavy handed symbolic gesture that makes Aymond self-satisfied?

I came from a union family and married into another one, so I had no problem boycotting grapes in the Sixties.  My problem with a boycott of a Planned Parenthood clinic is: where does it stop?  

Must a Catholic UPS driver refuse to deliver packages to the clinic?  A Catholic taxi driver refuse to transport a patient there?  A Catholic police officer refuse to stand between protesters and the doors?  If a vandal sprays red paint on the facade, is a Catholic cop required to let him go free rather than arrest him?

Some added information so that we see all sides:

Key point:

- Sounding affronted by what he described as "misinformation and sometimes downright malevolent voices which encourage community hysteria," Rabbi Edward Cohn chastised the clinic's detractors, including Archbishop Gregory Aymond, although Cohn only alluded to him and did not name him. Aymond spoke against the clinic at Monday's rally, calling abortion a violent act.

"No one has a monopoly on truth, especially in a free society in the 21th century," Cohn said. "No one. No church, no synagogue, no mosque. No archbishop, no rabbi, no imam bespeaks the official faith of the United States of America."

- this facility will be the first and only PP facility in the state to offer abortion services

- Officials supporting Planned Parenthood are in a stark minority in Louisiana, where lawmakers passed resolutions in both the House and the Senate this week aimed at the new clinic, calling for scrutiny of the group's finances and vigilance to uncover infractions of state law.

Planned Parenthood has raised $3.3 million in donations for the Claiborne project, including $800,000 in the past 90 days, said Pamela Steeg, a member of its fundraising committee. The clinic is expected to open in late 2014 or early 2015.

According to the most recent data available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 ranked Louisiana first in the nation for syphilis and gonorrhea infections, and third for chlamydia. The state was also fourth in the country for AIDS cases in 2010. The greater New Orleans area ranked fifth among large metropolitan areas for its rate of AIDS. Baton Rouge was first.

(and I didn't even include these last reasons in my list of points above but can one also add *homophobic* to Aymond's boycott call?)

- More than 50 percent of all pregnancies in Louisiana are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research and policy analysis firm that focuses on sexual and reproductive health issues and supports abortion rights.

The clinic would also provide access to contraception, which Dr. Julie Finger, a pediatrician who works at a clinic for homeless youths at the edge of the French Quarter, said has been shown to reduce abortion rates.

"These legislators that are trying to block the building of the new Planned Parenthood facility, if their sole interest is to decrease abortions in Louisiana, then preventing Planned Parenthood is not the avenue to do so," she said. "If you want to get rid of abortion in Louisiana, they should put a Planned Parenthood on every street corner."

Finally, another NO newspaper provided information about Aymond's statement about 30 abortions per day.....he stated that he got that information from anti-abortion industry experts (yep, an unbiased and objective source of information).  And Aymond then makes the wild assumption that this 30 per day would resuslt in 30 actual abortions every day all year (just because that is what anti-abortionists say).  Something is being exaggerated here.


Tom Blackburn,

That's an interesting comparison between (arch)bishop and union boss, as the two are commonly—notice I cautiously refrain from saying accurately—perceived. So:

  • make decisions without consulting those affected
  • use a cadre of subordinates to enforce discipline, spiritual or mundane
  • brook no opposition
  • appeal to high-sounding and unopposable principles and justifications (apostolic authority, discipleship; brotherhood, solidarity)
  • present a vision of paradise, always in the future
  • depend entirely on the monetary contributions of their flock or membership
  • feather their own nests

But like all comparisons, this one is imperfect. Those two dignitaries do differ in some respects; and overall, one is probably better than the other.


The Archdiocese can't succeed through moral persuasion, so they resort to bullying. it won't help their cause.

I don't mean not to talk about abortion in connection with the boycott-that is fine! 

Does refusing service in a particular case, for whatever reason, count as a little boycott? Or do you need to try to organize?

Wikipedia's article on boycotts implies that a boycott is a collective action.  I've never eaten at a Hooters because of the way they objectify women, but I haven't tried to found a movement to boycott it (although surely someone else has, somewhere).  I don't know what the word for my personal little stand is (beyond "consumer choice", I guess) but I don't think it rises to the level of a boycott.


John Prior, one difference is that the dues-paying members of a union can usually vote out a boss if he goes off the rails. Dues-paying members of a church have to wait for Rome to do something about a bishop who needs to be curbed. Until recently, the latter could wait forever, but that may be about to change.

As an student of Irish history I am only too well aware of the origin of term "boycott".

Captain Boycott was the manager for an absent English landlord.

Out of a sense of duty (on high moral grounds) he enforced the landlord's legal right not  tolower rents and to evict renters who could pay their dues.

Under the leadership of C S Parnell Boycott was ostracised.  No one would work for him and his family. They were denied the necessities of life. The English parliament/government mismanaged the whole tenant farmer issue so badly that Ireland was in uproar. Parnell imprisoned was speaking out against against a law which gave no clear definition of what constituted a "fair rent" - a pretty basic concept.

The ostracising of Boycott started off as a non-violent political action, non-cooperation, non-payment of dues. As it spread, and as it had no discernible effect other than to make the  incompetence of the English government more obvious, violence increased throughout the land. Parnell changed the emphasis from Land Reform to Home Rule.

So when I read Boycott (?) as the title of Prof Kaveny's blog I took it to indicate that she was questioning whether some of the socio-political actions in USA that called themselves "boycotts", were not in effect boycotts but "restrictions of trade", gratuitous punishment, political grandstanding hiding behind a word that the Irish hold dear as a memorial to the courage of the Irish peasantry who used the only weapon they had to try to bring their feudal masters, their absentee landlords, their out-of-touch English politicians, to their senses - at least the sense of fair play.

Concerted action is (part of) the definition of a boycott. A thousand people deciding separately not to patronize a business would not be a boycott. They might even have different and conceivably opposite motives. So some organizing is necessary. If a business can advertise to attract customers, I suppose an opponent should be able to speak out, within the limits of libel law, to deter them.

Things get complicated with secondary (tertiary?) boycotts. If people want to protest the employment conditions of field workers by boycotting grapes, should they also boycott truckers who deliver grapes to stores, the stores that sell them, the banks that provide payroll sevices for the stores' employees, other businesses that deal with those banks? How does a construction worker who may be pro-life enough to have a houseful of kids balance his obligation to feed them with the demand that he quit his job, in a brutal employment market, when he learns what the building he's working on will be used for?

And what happens when a boycott succeeds? When Planned Parenthood abandons its building plans or moves the facility to San Francisco, will Archbishop Aymond, still chuffed with the success of the Fortnight for Freedom in eliminating contraception, be there on the scene to comfort the young woman who has just brought her baby into a world that does not want it, or to care for the teenager bleeding from a botched abortion? It's a fallen world, they are always telling us, so there will be more of them. Our lot is to search the wreckage and choose the evil that least offends us.

Hey, that Gov. Martinez story is 2 years old! She's now firm on "the law of the land" from the Roberts court, and so presumably can return to her former hairdresser.

Before Katrina the poor in the New Orleans region had access to Charity Hospital where they could get very good if sometimes slow care.  The emergency room in the old Charity used to be one of the best in the world. Katrina knocked out Charity.  The nuns had stoppe running the place when they were required by law to provide for abortions.  After they quit Charity they built three large clinics in the city to help the poor.  The State is working to build another very large hospital in New Orleans for the poor and for emergency treatment (though I guess it won't be called Charity.) 

The Archdiocese has a number of family service programs which serve everyone.  I don't think it's fair to make a blanket accusation against Archbishop Aymond that he is indifferent to poor women.  This is a poor city, and he doesn't have a great deal of money to work with. 

I think people's purposeful way of spending- or not spending-  their money is right up there with their exercise of their right to free speech.  It doesn't matter if its a "boycott" of just one person- the value isn't just in its external impact- I think  there's great value to the individual in just exercising that right, even if it doesn't accomplish anything.  

Even when I personally find certain kinds of speech objectionable,  I try to err on the side of supporting people's right to express themselves.  Same with boycotts, including the one above. 

Ann - beg to differ.  The DCs have built those clinics (has nothing to do with the archdiocese or Aymond) and they fought a political battle to set up their first clinic in St. Bernard Parish.  Again, the archdiocese has had nothing to do with that.

My question is - do you know what the DCs' position is on Planned Parenthood and this new building?  My guess is that it is much more nuanced than Aymond and would suggest that the DC leadership would not support this boycott - why?  because their focus is on addressing the needs of the poor in all of those neighborhoods and this boycott will hurt the poor more than make a statement. 

Yes, all of NO has been hit hard by Katrina including the archdiocese - so what does that have to do with this declared boycott?  What about any number of catholics who saw their school or parish church closed by the archdiocese so they could save money; sell property; etc.?  Sorry, there are many sides to this issue and my stance is that this boycott has more to do with certain big donors who are anti-abortion rather than any type of concern for the poor.

It would be nice if the Catholic cop turned a blind eye to the vandal spray painting the facade of the abortion clinic.It could cost him/her, her  job and land him in jail,So that's a personal choice.Same with the UPS driver and the taxi driver.It is right that any of those actions are illigal.Because we are a nation of laws,laws which protect the principle of equality and individual rights.Not a free for all which would be an evil society.When and how far any individual goes in comitting acts of civil disobedience is  a personal choice.                                                                                                                                                There is no moral obligation to commit individual acts of civil disobedience,because while putting the person at risk they are ineffective in stopping or changing the law,the egregious act or policy.And because there is no end of injustices for which acts of individual civil disobedience could be undertaken.A concerted effort, a movement  is another story.Though I don't believe people are necessarily morally obligated to engage in acts of civil disobedience as part of a movement against an justice either.It's noble if they do but heroics and obligation are not the same. Heroics [civil disobedience] goes beyond the call of duty,Civil disobedience is always a matter of ones personal conscience.If i'm on parole i may lose that parole if I engage in civil disobedience. or lose my livlihood, or my children, etc.Someone else may be in a different boat.Though  at some point in fighting injustice, civil disobedience as part of a movement where a tipping point is reached  it may be morally obligatory for every person  to take a stand. A concerted boycott is not civil disobedience as there is no risk invovled. But a boycott is more  frought; with the potential injustice of  callous disregard for the consequences to the business,[or country] if one is easily manipulated and  just jumps on bandwagons.In the case of planned parenthood boycott i think it's justified.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       .Though Though we're not morally OBLIGATED to individually commit  acts of civil disobedience[though once a movement is at a tipping point of effecting change through civil disobedience  it may in fact be morally incumbent on all to participate]  because we're not obligated to disregard what ever  harm may befall us  and because  acts of individual,non coordinated  civil disobedience have no effect on the policy objected to, boycotts are another matter. There  IS a moral obligation for individuals to engage in boycotts of intrinsically evil instituions and companies that directly support them, such as the one against assissting planned parenthood.Any financial contibution to the evil institution helps keep that instituion going.There is also a moral obligation to refuse to commit intrinsically evil acts .A taxi driver refusing to drive a woman to the abortion clinic ithough engaged  in a principled act for which  there is a risk of imprisonment and/or losing his/her license  will not effect access to getting the abortion or influencing changes in laws.Hence the taxi driver is not morally obligated to commit an act of civil disobedience. A nun accompanying a woman to an abortion clinic is unethical because  it's a freely chosen subjective act of solidarity with the woman against her  unborn offspring.That is not the situation with the taxi driver.who did not take it upon himself to  acompamy the woman to the  abortion clinic but is merely following the law regarding taxi driving.                                                                                                            An act of civil disobedience is different from refusing to commit the act for which the goal of the civil disobedience is intended to effect. So  allowing someone to spray paint a facade is illigal yes, but it is not morally obligatory to engage in individual acts of civil disobedience.It IS morally obligatory to refuse to commit the act for which the civli disobedience is intended to effect;It is morally obligatory to refuse to do an abortion,say.[I'm having trouble separating paragraphs,spelling too,obviously].


Michael, ha.  I pulled it from the Deacon's Bench just a day or two ago. But that remindsme: I forgot to H/T because I was in a hurry.  I'll fix that now!



Cathleen asks:"How do we analyze the morality of boycotts?" I don't see why this analysis ought to be different from the analysis of any other organized effirt to change a  particular practice or institution. There are legal questions. some boycotts can be patently illegal, e.g., a group of parents keeping their children out of school to tryt o change school policy. Even so, the illegal is not necessarily the immoral.

Then there is the "political dimension." Here Cathleen's two points about influencing enough people to have a chance of being effective are relevant. Just to stir up trouble because one is displeased with some situation is irresponsible and, I would say, objectively immoral. But there is also the long-range effort of a relatively handful people working to influence their fellow citizent to work against some institutional injustice. Even effprts apparently doomed to fail are often enough deserving of moral approbation. Who could have known how effective Dorothy Day would have been at the outset of her work?

Finally, there is the basic moral question. Would this boycott lead me to inflict direct harm on some person, harm that is in no sense justified punishment.

I taake it that all three of these sorts of questions are relevant to the search for the practical wisdom to respond propeerly to institutionalzed injustices.

No easy answers. No pat formulas. No definitive certitude. But also no merre "flying solo by the seat of one's pants."

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